I am super excited to have this weeks guest on to share her story. I recently met with Meg to talk about an exciting new project, and I must say her enthusiasm is so infectious! Meg and I have a similar goals and ambitions for what we would like to achieve and introduce as the “norm” for all women. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.
My name is Meg Solly and I grew up on a farm in country Queensland. We ran dairy, stud and commercial beef cattle and farmed a variety of crops. My mum went back to work as a school teacher when we were quite young, so my dad was essentially our primary caregiver for a lot of years.
I enjoyed farm life. I was pretty handy on a horse and was often first picked for mustering work. All of the five kids were expected to work around the farm and the house, whether it was painting fences, baling hay or showing cattle. I actually won a trophy for the Under 12 Most Potential Young Cattle Breeder. My prize was of course, a cow!
While the farm was a big part of my life, I also studied dance for 13 years, and while I wasn’t particularly talented, in 2000 I got a job as a singer and dancer in a theme park in Taiwan where I met my best friend, husband and now business partner Clint who was a talented gymnast and acrobatic performer. Within a couple of weeks we were smitten and we’ve been together ever since!!
Clint had just finished his cabinet making apprenticeship and when we returned from overseas, he worked in his trade building everything from theatre and exhibition sets, to solid timber furniture to kitchens. I taught dance, coached gymnastics, and had a short stint as a cheerleader and karaoke host. In 2003 we headed back overseas and worked on board cruise ships as part of the youth activities and entertainment teams.
We returned to Australia in 2008 and decided to visit some friends in Kalgoorlie and I landed my first job in the mining industry. And I loved it!! Big dirty machines, hard-working people, tough deadlines and lots of excitement. My natural ability to connect people landed me in a great recruitment job and I spent the next 5 years managing the recruitment of tradies and engineers for big construction and mining jobs around the country.
Eventually, I got sick of being in the office and I got a job out west working fly-in-fly-out on a large scale construction project. While most of my work was administrative in nature, I would get out of the office every chance I got to visit my team who would be working in remote locations. I went on site tours every day and learned a lot from all the tradies and engineers I worked with.
After that I moved onto working in Vocational Education where there were very few female students in trades and even fewer female teachers, and I wasn’t happy with that. There’s so many opportunities and women are greatly under-utilised as a potential source of skilled labour. There’s still a lot of barriers in place for women who want to work in non-traditional industries, and often it’s our own unconscious bias that stops us. Walking into a room full of 30 blokes to teach was honestly terrifying at first, but I found I was very well accepted by my students (99% of which were men).
The idea for She Skills evolved over time. I was always helping Clint build furniture in our apartment courtyard, but we couldn’t build much without upsetting a few neighbours. Then when I tried to find a place for us to work, I wasn’t allowed to go to some of the Men’s Sheds. Eventually we found a great place to work at a community maker space which had an awesome wood shop.
I asked my female friends if they wanted to learn how to make things out of timber and they did, so we ran a couple of workshops. We found that by having a women’s only class, we were able to take away that anxiety that exists in many women’s heads when they enter what they perceive to be a male domain. Then we watched their confidence soar, just as mine had when Clint took the time to teach me the skills. He just never gave me the option to think that I couldn’t do it.
So now we are in our second month of workshops and we have had nearly 50 women come through our doors, aged 18 to 70. Each and every one of them has gone away with new practical skills and the confidence that comes with succeeding in something that takes you outside your comfort zone. Along the way we’ve met many talented tradeswomen and crafts people and we look forward to bringing them on board to share their skills with our growing tribe of confident and capable women.
My hope is that these women will take their newfound skills home and share them with their children and grandchildren. We share lots of images online because we want to effect change on the current landscape and contribute to the reimagining of a future where women using tools, building and fixing becomes as normal as it is for men.
Keen to find out more about these awesome workshops? Check out Meg’s website, Instagram and Facebook pages for more details. If you have already attended one of Meg’s workshops, why not tell us of your experience in the comments.
Have you ever used a power tool before? Would you like to learn? Don’t you think one of these workshops would make an excellent Mother’s Day gift idea?